Two losses on the trot for Dragons

STANDOUT: Clint Guterson en route to his second try. Picture: Getty Images

STANDOUT: Clint Guterson en route to his second try. Picture: Getty Images

IF Mitchell Moses is worth $800,000 a season, what is Clint Gutherson worth to Parramatta?

It’s a fair question given the Eels’ everywhere man’s performance in a 24-10 victory over St George Illawarra on Sunday afternoon.

The 22-year-old – who was shifted from the halves to accommodate Moses’ mid-season arrival – had a double to go with 193 running metres in a brilliant first-half display.

He finished with 216 metres in the bank alongside a personal tally of 14 points in a commanding performance at fullback for the Eels.

It came after Arthur decided to shift Bevan French to the right flank to make way for the late inclusion of Michael Jennings at right centre, with both scoring tries in the second half.

With Moses coming to the club on hefty two-season deal to partner the equally well re-numerated Corey Norman in the halves, it’s Gutherson who continues to be coach Brad Arthur’s bargain basement gem, regardless of what number he wears on his back.

“Gutho is just a footballer and I don’t know where his best position is to tell you the truth,” Arthur said post-match.

“We just need to have him on the field somewhere. Last week [against North Queensland] he had 31 touches and ran for nearly nine kilometres [in the centres].

“He ran more than our halves, we just didn’t have any ball and we didn’t control the game so we probably didn’t give Gutho any chance to see what he could do in the centres.

“We’ve used 10 backs this year and only two of those players have played every game. Eight of those blokes have been out for extended periods and at the moment blokes have got to jump into what’s perhaps not their preferred position and do what’s best for the team.

“A good example of that is Bevan French. He had the choice to sulk about which he didn’t and that’s the sort of kid he is.

“He worked really hard all week with Jenko on that right edge and I thought they did a great job in defence. Bev nailed a few big moments for us tonight, they put him under pressure and maybe it was the difference in the game for us.”

The win was soured, however, by a potential ACL injury to hooker Kaysa Pritchard, who was taken from the field on a medi-cab 16 minutes before halftime.

The Eels managed two more tries in his absence but the loss of their No. 9 could have big impact on the rest of their season.

The Dragons were without their own star No. 1 Josh Dugan who, along with back-rower Tyson Frizell, was absent on Origin duty, but it’s unlikely either could’ve lifted their side who were sluggish out of the blocks for the second straight week. 

It saw them sink to their fifth loss in their last seven outings and leaves coach Paul McGregor without a victory since re-signing for two more seasons last week.

It will also see them head into Sunday’s clash with Newcastle at Kogarah under some pressure and desperately hoping Dugan and Frizell come through Origin II unscathed.

“Again, I thought our start was not what we needed, we put ourselves under pressure there early,” McGregor said.

“I thought we put ourselves under pressure for most of the day. It was five line breaks to one, to us, and we lost four tries to two.

“It’s very disappointing because, as a group, we’ve gone from completing high and working hard for one another to just trying to score and putting ourselves under pressure.

“We’ve had a bit of distraction over the last couple of weeks with blokes in and out and we’ve had the bye but there’s no excuse there. We’ve got to be better.

“There’s a lot of blokes who care in that shed and sometimes when that happens you out yourself under too much pressure and you freeze a little bit.

“It’s not one thing, it’s a combination of a few.”

Gutherson opened the scoring after just three minutes when he latched onto a deflected off-load from Kenny Edwards to post the first try.

He went the longer route for his second, stopping an in-field kick from a runaway Kalifa Faifai Loa with his boot and scooping up the scraps to race 80 metres and extend the lead to 12-0, 13 minutes before the break.

A try to Nene MacDonald off a clever flick-pass from stand-in No.1 Jason Nightingale briefly stemmed the flow for the visitors, ensuring they trailed by just eight at halftime.

It brought only short relief with Jennings scooping up an errant Tim Lafai off-load and darting 50 metres to score eight minutes after the resumption.

French won the race to a deft grubber from Moses 10 minutes later to extend the the lead beyond three converted tries after Gutherson added the extras.

Paul Vaughan got across 17 minutes remaining but it did little more than bring respectability to the final 24-10 scoreline.